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I’m SORRY. But it’s true. Wish it were not. Read the following re-posted from the excellent www.nakedcapitalism.com and then explain to me why I’m wrong! “Barclay’s Bob Diamond to Non-Bankers: Drop Dead”.

Banks are net extractors of wealth. You know: the fees, the interest rates, the bailouts, the bonuses, the austerity, the union breaking, the China to Walmart conveyor belt, the exporting of jobs… Even in Canada they soak up a lot of resources that would be more useful elsewhere and believe me with the helping hand of the right government they will eventually be allowed to merge and expand and catch up with the Banking Leviathans that are doing everything in their might to keep the World gorging on a mountain of debt. I have no solutions to offer except that being aware of it and being right fucking pissed off about it is a good start.

Have a great day everyone!

European Death Spiral – End Games – by Santyajit Das
http://bit.ly/icSRVf. (a very sober review).

Christ Almighty if the Internet is such a wonderful tool of education HOW IS IT that the utter madness that is going on right now in the world of finance is allowed to continue? I have rarely felt as helpless and sick to the stomach as I do today… the facts are out there and nobody is facing up to the music and the fact that it WILL STOP again. Nothing has been fixed. NOTHING! Multiple trillion dollar compress bandages have been applied to the debt-clogged crater that once held the heart of the world economy and people are dancing around the maypole thanking the Lord for his miraculous bounty while the patient continues to hemorrhage internally. And all poor sods like me can do is tweet it and facebook it at whoever will listen like some apeshit crazy prophet of doom in neo-biblical times (because there will be another book of warning for future generations, most likely long after the Face has been ripped off this era of profligate insanity).

Rant off. Here’s what triggered it:

Why Is The US Taxpayer Subsidizing Facebook – And The Next Bubble?

Goldman Sachs … has effectively become a new form of Government Sponsored Enterprise. Goldman is not a venture capital fund or primarily an equity-financed investment fund. It is a highly leveraged bank, meaning that it borrows through the capital markets most of the money that it puts to work.

As Anat Admati (of Stanford University) and her colleagues tirelessly point out, the central vulnerability in our modern financial system is excessive reliance on borrowed money, particularly by the biggest players.

Goldman Sachs is a perfect example. Most of this firm’s operations could be funded with equity – after all, it is not in the retail deposit business. But issuing debt is attractive to shareholders because of the subsidies associated with debt funding for banks, and compelling to bank executives whose compensation is based on return on equity – as measured, this increases with leverage. If they have more debt relative to equity, that increases the potential upside for investors. It also increases the probability that the firm could fail – unless you believe, as the market does, that Goldman is too big to fail.

Social networking firms should be able to attract risk capital and compete intensely. They do not need subsidies in the form of cheaper funding (seen today as a more favorable valuation for Facebook) or in any other form.

Social networking is a bubble in the sense that email was a bubble. The technology will without doubt change forever how we communicate with each other, and this may have profound effects on the nature of our society. But investors will get carried away, valuations will become too high, and some people will lose a lot of money.

If those losses are entirely equity-financed, there may be negative effects but they will likely be small – in the revised data after the 2001 dotcom crash, there isn’t even a recession (i.e., there were not two consecutive negative quarters for GDP).

But if the losses follow the broader Goldman Sachs structure and are largely debt-financed, then the US taxpayer will have helped create another major financial crisis.

And if you think that sophisticated investors at the heart of our financial system can’t get carried away and lose money on Internet-related investments, read up on Webvan:

“During the dot-com bubble, Goldman invested about $100 million in Webvan, the online grocer that never got off the ground and eventually collapsed in bankruptcy.”

Love him or hate him Niall Fergueson has a vastly better understanding of financial history than most… Definitely worth spending an hour and a bit with him to broaden your understanding of the historical background of fallen empires from the past and why the case for America will likely be no different, and much sooner and faster than most optimists would care to admit.

Niall Ferguson Empires on the Edge of Chaos

Future shock? Welcome to the new Middle Ages

A great article in the Financial Times that confirms what I’ve been telling people for a few years now… But don’t worry, it’s not all negative. The article reminds us that…

This new world will mean huge challenges, for the west in particular. But if the US applies a genuinely Byzantine strategy, it has a good chance of stopping a slide into conflict. And remember that, despite its bleak reputation, the Middle Ages was actually an era of great invention and discovery – and one which eventually gave way to a great Renaissance too. As we witness today’s great power grievances mount and fear another world of war, we must remember the same is possible today.

Worth a read.

Cue up Spinal Tap’s “Christmas With the Devil” and read this year’s Devil’s Christmas Letter courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith. I wish the whole concept were funnier but the Devil, whether he exist factually or metaphorically, is most definitely having a joyous Christmas the likes he hasn’t relished since the first half of the 20th Century! What is supposed to be a celebration of Peace on Earth is lining itself up to be the Eve of America in Pieces. Just cause it’s Christmas don’t mean the situation is any less dire.

A sample:

As you know, this time of year usually finds me quite despondent, as the Prince of Peace’s influence waxes most atrociously around his birthday. But this year I am in fine spirits, nay, let me even declare myself absolutely giddy, for the destruction of the United States of America draws ever nearer.

Though my minions have long sown festering seeds of hate and disharmony in that now-benighted land, only recently have my favored weapons of destruction–leverage, debt, half-truths and endless, preening justifications for greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy, anger and gluttony–have been unleashed to worm their way into the stricken heart of that Republic.

…They have made a mockery of the rule of law, openly flouting it by letting financial crimes go not just unpunished but rewarded. The blatant injustice that roams the land like a foul, slobbering beast–there are two sets of laws and two sets of books now, one for the financial Elites and their political toadies, and another one for the tax donkeys beneath them–this will eventually ignite the firestorm I seek.

American extravagance has surpassed even my highest expectations, as purveyors of luxury goods reap record profits, and the childish desire for instant gratification has become the unspoken ruler of the land. Convenience is now worshipped as a god, sitting triumphant beside entitlement, greed and willful ignorance.

…When the people cheer “We’re number One,” I cheer with them, for pride goeth before a fall. When they believe the half-truths, the illusions, the mispresentations, the misdirections and yes, the outright lies of the ruling class repeated by their toadies in the media, I can no longer restrain my delight, for lies and half-truths are my favored weapons of destruction. The leaders are themselves leaderless, blank, hollowed-out souls doing the bidding of their parasitic masters, focused only on keeping the corrupt and venal status quo together for a few more months, never looking out ten years.

I delight in that shortsightedness, that abject fear of change and transformation, that clinging to failure and pride, that refusal to face reality.

For the U.S.A. is now an Empire of Debt and Lies, its fraudulent financial system built on misrepresentations of risk and value, and its “economy of confidence” a con game based on illusory wealth, parasitic skimming, government gaming and tax donkeys paying for their Financial Masters’ idiotic mistakes.

One Nation Under Fraud

I joked today at breakfast that to understand how the World works, one need only look up the the 16th Century… Turns out it wasn’t much of a joke.

The 1677 Statute of Frauds: History We Neglect at Our Peril

Worst Christmas Special

“A Titanic Christmas”

Does anyone at all question the fact that big, BIG things are going down in the World economy? That our future is about as economically and politically uncertain as it’s been since the dawn of the Great Depression? I cannot fathom how anyone who has even the remotest sense of history cannot be deeply worried about what is going to happen on the Global stage in the next 12 months, nevermind the next 12, 20, 50 years. The system that we were born into and have taken for granted all our lives is falling apart. Something will replace it. But will the transition be a smooth one or a sudden and disruptive one? Unfortunately history would suggest the latter.

More and more I think part of the challenge is that we have become unhinged from the horrible and difficult lessons of the early 20th Century. We think that we are somehow better, more intelligent that the generations that have preceded us. I beg to differ. Now, while the Internet is playing a starring role in destroying business models that have succeeded for centuries it is also our best hope at keeping citizens worldwide informed about how the system is breaking down and enabling these citizens to have a discussion about what kind of system we would like to have in its place. What money is, how it functions and how it enables us to apply human labour and ingenuity to transform the Earth’s resources into not only what we use but what we are as organisms gets to the very heart of our existence as a species on Earth. The infinite growth model is unsustainable and yet it is at the core of how Central Banking and western capitalist economies function. So nothing much is going to change unless we redefine what money is and what purposes we want it to serve. How much longer before we realize that economies are, from now on, about enabling the survival of our species and not maximizing shareholder profit?

If you are worried about the future and are trying to better understand what the hell is going on and what can be done to limit the damage and turn it around read this:

Matt Stoller: End This Fed

Matt Stoller was the former Senior Policy Advisor for Democratic Representative Alan Grayson. In this post he discusses how, in the socially connected Universe that is rapidly changing how we conduct our affairs, the U.S. Federal Reserve can no longer operate with the secrecy that it has benefitted from since its inception in 1913 which has allowed it to behave as America’s defacto shadow government with nothing more than the needs of Wall Street as it’s main consideration. The implications for how the United States is governed (and thus the rest of the World) are profound. A MUST READ. And don’t skimp out on the comments either!

Credit Market Stress Intensifying: Corporate, High Yield Issuance Tanked in November